The use of monitor is very limited, but it is not useless at all. Some conscious knowledge of language can be eventually helpful. Acquisition does not, typically, provide us with 100% of a language; there is often a small residue of grammar, punctuation and spelling rules that even native speakers do not acquire, even after extensive aural and written comprehensible input.
In English, these can include the lie/lay distinction, the its/its distinction, and spelling demons such as “separate,” and “commitment” (how many t’s), and so on.
And because our standard for written communication is 100%, these aspects of language need to be learned, but it is important to note that they make up just a small part of our language competence, and we will acquire and learn about it as we do reading and writing.
Saya sendiri baru tahu saat menulis tulisan ini bahwa imbuhan yang benar adalah "mengoreksi" bukan "mengkoreksi," dan belum terlalu lama saya juga baru tahu bahwa benar adalah "sekadar," bukan "sekedar," dan berapa banyak dari kita yang tahu bahwa ada kata "derana" dalam perbendarahaan bahasa Indonesia? Saya tidak. Tentu masih ada lagi sisa aturan bahasa dan kosakata bahasa Indonesia lain yang belum kita serap. Tapi sisa aturan bahasa dan kosakata itu bisa kita peroleh sembari jalan karena kita sudah memiliki dasar intuisi bahasa Indonesia yang solid, dan bahasa Indonesia masih terus berkembang.
In “learning” method, we focus our students to the the grammar rules and vocabulary. In this method, we train out students to build their conscious knowledge about the grammar rules and vocabulary and use them as the building block to construct sentences.
But, problem is, even the best in our class might not even remember all the rules they have learned, and they can’t always use the rules they do remember.
The fact is that many rules are too complex to apply while at the same time engaging in conversation. Indeed, it is very difficult and to keep every grammar checked while engaging in a conversation!
That’s when someone who learn English primarily through the study of grammar rules and vocabulary memorization do not produce fluent and accurate English. Because they basically develop their cognitive knowledge of the English, they thus don’t have the tacit knowledge or the “intuition” of English that enables them to fluently and accurately produce the output.
In this way, when they want to speak accurately, they cognitively translating their thoughts from the native language into the target language with the grammatical rules they learned. This means they are cognitively and constantly juggling between their native language and the target language. This process of producing language is not only very difficult to do, but also painful to listen. In learning method, accuracy is thus at the cost of fluency.
And vice versa is true: fluency is at the cost of accuracy. If we want to speak out target language fluently, it’s usually at the cost of accuracy. We produce grammatically inaccurate (broken) target language (broken English).
If you break down Mandarin into discrete vocabulary and drill them in front of the mirror every morning, divorced from the context of real communication and understanding, chances are your ability to naturally speak Mandarin will not significantly improve.
Rather, the ability to speak (and write) is the natural result of the having acquired lots of input. Imagine the ability to produce language as the tip of an iceberg: which is just a small perceptible part of a much larger situation: the prior knowledge that has been stored and remains hidden in long-term memory.
Check fact: Many Mandarin teachers who can fluently speak and write Mandarin have the background of having acquired a considerable amount of Mandarin through real communication in their family or community, or from consuming lots of movies or music or reading in Mandarin.
The way that speaking help language acquisition is indirect: by speaking, we can elicit some conversation, and conversation can be an excellent source of comprehensible input that students can acquire. And besides, speaking can also help students feel more like a user of the target language, like a member of the Chinese “community,” for example.
The problem wasn’t necessarily grammar itself: it was the way it has been taught. As if grammar was a standalone subject where random sentences were divided into their constituent grammatical parts.
In acquisition approach, the study of grammar and memorizing vocabulary is not the end of the learning and assessment, but means to help us know what is possible in the language, and so we can get the job done grammatically creative for different situations. So, grammar is not linguistic straight jackets and rules; it is how creativity manifests itself in language.
The primary way to teach grammar
Here’s the idea: we do not acquire grammar and vocabulary primarily not through out-of-context grammar drilling, e.g. underline adjective, circling the noun, filling in the blank with the right structure, matching picture and words.
This kind of out-of-context drilling activities does neither help us to acquire the grammar/vocabulary nor uncover the beauty in the language. This work doesn’t uncover the beauty of the English language, nor does it it unleash creativity in our children. It may even do the opposite as it shapes students to the writing that serves no real expressive or communicative purpose, but reduced their thought to just finding and getting the ‘right’ answer.
The primary way to acquire grammar and vocabulary is through experiencing exemplary literature (and meaningful conversations and language-rich activities around it). This is where grammar is real. This is where we acquire the ways in which we can play with language to achieve our intentions.
In great text, we are immersed into ways how the author uses their language knowledge and how they organize their words and sentences to make us notice, feel, see or imagine something.
What we can do with written language can be very different from what we can do with spoken language. When we write, we have time time to hone and craft the language, and so the grammar of writing has some differences from the grammar of real-time conversation or speech.
If we don’t immerse student into great writings, we leave them to fall back on what they intuitively know about language, and as a consequence they simply write like they speak.
And studies confirm that the language of children’s books is richer and more complex than the most of spoken language of even college graduates. Thus, children experiencing great children’s book is an unparalleled opportunity to expose them to sophisticated language, vocabulary, and broad knowledge.
That’s why the time in language education is best spent for listening, reading and discussion around great books, and secondarily on language-rich activity rooted in those things.
In my own experience, teacher comments (including mine) on students work (their speaking and writing, etc.) may quite often be vague, too informal, or too colloquial, too chatty, rambling, or repetitive. Students need more meaningful direction than this. They need immersion to great writings and story-telling, language-rich conversations and meaningful comments to actually grow their whole language competence.